There are nights when you love how much you love sports. And then there are nights like Wednesday when you prefer to drown your sporting sorrows in prime time soap operas.
The Nets, who occasionally lift my spirits in spite of my knowing that eventually they will find a way to pull them down, mishandle them and turn them over, departed their postseason under ignominious, lead-blowing, ref-abetted circumstances. Their sudden, disgusting elimination from the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals left me in that playoffs-are-suddenly-over zone every sports fan is now and then compelled to visit, the one where you have to convince yourself not to destroy your television as you rue your failure to have added Yukon Jack to the week’s grocery list.
By the time the Nets definitively proved they couldn’t take the inevitable Heat, the Mets were still technically engaged in their relatively lower-stakes competition versus their intracity rivals, yet I had witnessed enough of it to have become resigned to the imminent expiration of the delightful six-game Subway Series winning streak Good had cobbled over Evil (or, if you’re touchy about hyperbole, Irksome). As the immediate sting of the basketball wore off, the frustration from the baseball sank in like a Ray Allen three-pointer with 32 seconds to go. I was so put out by the combination of conclusions that when both contests were over, all I could stand to do was switch to DVR mode and watch the season finale of Nashville — where melodrama always paints the corners — and try to forget about the whole thing.
What whole thing?
The Mets were a lost cause by the time the Mike Scott comparisons came rolling out of the SNY booth on behalf of Masahiro Tanaka. The Ghost of Splitters Past, sans sandpaper, was showing no mercy to the lineup that doesn’t do much at Citi Field to begin with. Hernandez, Carter and Strawberry would have flailed against Tanaka, so could you really expect a whole lot more from their less capable descendants? After the Mets captured two quintessential Yankee Stadium III slugfests, it was only fitting they returned to their home park and demonstrated complete offensive impotence.
Met starting pitching wasn’t nearly Tanakan enough to make a difference, but it looked pretty good nonetheless. Rafael Montero debuted and didn’t disappoint. The kid didn’t blow the opposition away as Matt Harvey did in Arizona two Julys ago, but I don’t think that was the long-range forecast to begin with. He was competent, poised and promising enough for now: 6 IP, 3 ER (one of them the direct result of Eric Young, Jr.’s insipid decision to dive in front of an uncatchable ball) and a lovely parting gift basket to Derek Jeter, consisting of Montero’s first major league strikeout and some fancy lotions. Overall, there was enough to make you want to see more, which is all you can ask of a recalled rookie.
We have another one of those tonight, as Jacob deGrom earned a promotion from reliever to starter by being on the premises when it was learned Dillon Gee was going to the DL with a strained right lat muscle. That’s not supposed to be a serious injury (also, Ryan Church is well enough to fly cross-country with a concussion), so I’m willing to believe Gee’s misfortune is temporary and the opportunity it grants deGrom is a bonus.
If that’s not enough hurlers in motion for you, there’s one more to consider: Kyle Farnsworth walking through the exit. Farnsworth was the closer on Monday — a successful closer in that he was on the mound as his defense notched him a save. Otherwise, he was a ticking suckbomb who Sandy Alderson defused just in time to withhold most of his pending salary.
It was one of those cold business moves a team occasionally executes because it can and you can’t really argue with it since it’s contractually valid, and lord knows when it comes to late-game clutch, Kyle Farnsworth was no LeBron James. Most of his career he’s been the guy LeBron James dunks over. It fells a little icky nonetheless. Yet within the bottom line-savvy circles where we do our hardest rooting, I don’t expect to hear, when the next late Met lead slips away, cries of “Why ever did we get rid of Farnsworth?”
So good luck to Kyle Farnsworth. At any rate, don’t strain your right lat muscle as you ratchet up your bitterness at your former employers.
Perhaps it’s discovering the sun rose this morning despite my prediction to the contrary last night, but maybe fewer leads will slip away now that our bullpen’s been revamped. Jenrry Mejia is, as Jerry Manuel and I always thought he would become, an accomplished reliever now…if we can stretch the concept of “accomplished” to encompass one encouraging appearance. Jeurys Familia has closer stuff if not control. Josh Edgin is returning, and Josh’s ability to throw with his left hand makes him, theoretically, a valuable commodity. Daisuke Matsuzaka extricated Zack Wheeler’s overcooked fat from the pitch-count fire the other night; nobody will ever fully trust Daisuke Matsuzaka but he hasn’t completely betrayed us yet. Plus, once Gee and Gonzalez Germen return to active duty, there’s every chance Jose Valverde will receive a kinder, gentler but just as definitive Farnsworthian farewell.
See? Sometimes you wait for the light of day and things do look so much better. It’s enough to make you believe Rayna James will spurn Luke Wheeler and wind up with her one true love Deacon Claybourne.